The Khampa Tribe of Himachal Pradesh


The Khampa people are a unique community that has been living in India for many years. They have their own language, traditions, and customs. The Khampa people have contributed significantly to the Indian culture, especially in the areas of agriculture and wool trade.

History and Migration

The Khampa tribe traces its roots to the eastern Tibetan region, particularly the historical regions of Kham and Amdo. Historically known for their nomadic lifestyle and fierce warrior traditions, the Khampa people have a deep connection to Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan culture.The name of the state from which they came is called Kham. The people of this state are known as Khampa. They were once described as tall, well-built, fearless, and open-faced men that resembled Apache Indians. They had plaited hair hanging from each side of their well-modeled heads.

The Khampas have had a long-standing history of conflict with the Chinese, who annexed most of Kham Province to Sichuan in 1720. At that time, no Chinese dared to enter the territory for fear of being murdered. The tension between the Khampa and the Chinese came to a head in the 1950s when Communist China was consolidating its hold on Tibet, and there was massive violence inflicted by the Red Army. Despite the violence, most Khampas remained in Tibet until the end. However, some fled to Bhutan or northeastern India to escape the conflict.

They migrated to India as traders and herders. Those who stayed back in India are known as Gyakhar or Gyagar.

Settlement in Himachal Pradesh

While the Khampa tribe's ancestral lands lie beyond Himachal Pradesh, a significant number of Khampa individuals and families have migrated to the state over the years. One of the primary reasons for this migration is the presence of Tibetan settlements in areas like Dharamshala, McLeod Ganj, and Bir Billing. These areas became prominent centers for Tibetan refugees following the Chinese occupation of Tibet in the 1950s and the subsequent exodus of Tibetans, including Khampa families, seeking refuge in India.

ALSO READ ABOUT: Swangla Tribe of H.P


The Khampa people are scattered in Kullu, Chamba, Kinnaur, and Lahaul Spiti. In Uttarakhand, they are known as "Shah Khampa" and distributed in Darma and Byans villages of Pithoragarh. In Spiti, they are known as "Piti Khampa," in Kinnaur as "Kunnu Khampa," in Kullu as "Neond: Khampa," in Chamba as "Thava Khampa," and in Lahaul as "Gharja Khampa." Nomadic Khampas are known as "Nekhor Khampa" (people who came for the pilgrimage).

Language and Religion

The traditional script of the Khampa people is Tibetan. The Khampas believe in all four sects of Lamaistic Buddhism, i.e., 'Galuka,' Ningama-pa,' 'Sakya-pa,' and Kharguda-pa'. Their family deity is known as Chhadna Dorge.

Lifestyle and Traditions

The traditional dress of Khampa consists of Chhuba (long gown), Banjug (shirt), Siring Kinger (cap), and Suktu (woolen bed sheet). Their earlier staple diet used to be thugpa and momo. Khampas brought Pashmina wool to India. The Khampa people have a traditional council known as "Shuzam chungi," which is headed by a "Gova." 

Marriage and Divorce

In Tibetan society, there are two basic levels: the family and social classes, which include commoners, clergy, and nobility. Polyandry, which is a marital arrangement where a woman has several husbands, is socially accepted and very common. Some wealthy and noble Tibetans also practice polygamy, where they have multiple marriage partners.

Their marriages are generally fixed by a negotiator known as "Phakhtun," and divorce is known as Jatsari-jha-dal-va or Jha-cho-che. The girls sing 'timde-luh' during marriage where some questions are asked to the bridegroom by the bride’s friends. The song sung on the occasion of marriage is called "Yanva" or "timde luh."

The Khampa Tibetans have been living in India for a few generations now. However, many of them are not familiar with Tibet, despite its close proximity to their homes in northeastern India. While some Tibetans in India are returning to Tibet, this trend might not continue if the Chinese government intensifies their efforts to make Tibet more Chinese and less Tibetan.

Contributions to Local Society

Beyond preserving their own cultural heritage, the Khampa community in Himachal Pradesh has actively contributed to the local society and economy. Many Khampa individuals are skilled artisans, known for their craftsmanship in traditional Tibetan arts such as thangka painting, wood carving, and metalwork. These artistic pursuits not only serve as a means of livelihood but also contribute to the rich artistic tapestry of Himachal Pradesh.

Challenges and Preservation Efforts

Like many indigenous communities, the Khampa tribe faces challenges in preserving its unique identity and heritage in a rapidly changing world. Efforts are underway, both within the community and with external support, to safeguard Khampa traditions, language, and cultural practices for future generations.


In conclusion, the Khampa people are a unique community that has been living in India for many years. They have their own language, traditions, and customs. The Khampa people have contributed significantly to the Indian culture, especially in the areas of agriculture and wool trade. Their way of life and traditions are worth preserving, and it is essential to recognize and appreciate the diversity that they bring to the Indian culture. The Khampa people are a community of traders and herders who have made significant contributions to the Indian way of life.

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